Police bust alleged credit card fraud ring

Laguna Beach police have arrested four members of an alleged credit card fraud ring and detectives plan to serve arrest warrants on two additional suspects.

The suspected ring leader, Dwight Christian Vaccaro, 46, was arrested at his Costa Mesa home Sept. 22 on suspicion of manufacturing and distributing fraudulent credit cards, according to Laguna Police Sgt. Robert Rahaeuser.

Police said the suspects will likely be charged with conspiracy to commit identity theft, fraudulent use of access cards and commercial burglary.

Vaccaro was previously convicted on federal charges in 1991 for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine.

In this case, authorities have seized 95 fraudulent credit and gift cards. Police are attempting to identify the respective banks and card holders.

Prior to Vaccaro's arrest, Laguna Beach police began an investigation after officers discovered a naked couple in a vehicle, drinking alcohol behind White House Restaurant at 3 a.m. Sept. 19.

Diandre Lemont Lopez, 38, and Diana May Andara, 21, both of Costa Mesa, were arrested after officers noticed 43 fraudulent gift cards and credit cards strewn across the front seat and dashboard of the car.

After the arrests, detectives were led to a possible third suspect involved in identity theft and fraudulent credit card usage, Rahaeuser said.

Police conducted surveillance on 22 year-old Charles Martin's Huntington Beach home. They made contact with Martin inside his home and discovered fraudulent credit cards, receipts and $800 worth of clothing that he allegedly bought with fraudulent cards.

Vaccaro reportedly obtained credit card information through unidentified individuals in chat rooms, where he would buy personal information such as account numbers, Rahaeuser said.

He would alter gift cards with a magnetic strip and the account numbers he obtained. The card would appear like a VISA debit card and would have a name embossed on it, Rahaeuser said.

"He would then trade or sell the cards to members of his network," Rahaeuser said.

Police could not estimate how long the operation has been in progress.

Police have identified a number of victims but are working to identify more, he said. As of right now, no victims are from Laguna Beach. The majority are from the East Coast.

"It's just a good reminder that credit card holders need to monitor their monthly statements closely to make sure only their transactions appear in the documents," Rahaeuser said.


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